Fr. Zuhlsdorf discusses (to be euphemistic) a comment by one Fr. Addison Hart, who left the Anglican Communion 13 years ago for the Catholic Church and is now regretting the decision. I agree with Fr. Z. that the reasons Fr. Hart gives for his disaffection are pretty silly. But as somebody making the same journey as Fr. Hart’s original one, I have to comment further.
If the Church of England and ECUSA are in fact part of the Church which Jesus founded on the rock of St. Peter, then they must by definition be infallible in matters of faith and doctrine, as to be otherwise would constitute the Gates of Hell prevailing against that church. In other words, the existence of the Magisterium is a corollary of Matt. 16:18. Now, it is clear to everyone that at the very least,C of E /ECUSA believe different things from the Catholic Church, particularly in matters of human sexuality. They cannot both be right. Further, the Anglican tradition does not speak with one voice in matters of faith and doctrine, so we can scarcely speak of infallibility when contradictory doctrines are acceptable within the tradition.
Under such circumstances, one might doubt the continuity of Apostolic succession, and indeed, the Roman church rejects the Anglican succession. I was rather shocked when a RC online told me that I was not receiving the True Presence, given that that’s almost all that Fr. Crume talks about. When I read the argument, I realized that it was precisely parallel to a dispute within my old branch of Wicca. After contemplating the matter, I found that my own reaction was the same that I had then: that the errors of ordination did not invalidate the ceremony, assuming proper intent and subsequent orthopraxis, but that I would sooner be aligned with the purer stream. Nor have I experience to compare the subjective experience of the Sacrament, and probably will not for some time, as the Church of Rome does not have the same Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy about previous marriages. My own conscience is clear that I was never previously married in any sense that the Christian Church generally has understood, but I don’t wish to give offence and scandal before the Church has come to the same conclusion.
Now, one might claim that the various Anglo-Catholic schisms are the Remnant of the True Church within the Anglican tradition. I’ve not seen anything in A/C doctrine which would be a deal-breaker to union with Rome (and of course, neither has the Pope). But the rot in Anglicanism had begun to set in as early as the ’30s, with their early adoption of contraception. The signatories of the Affirmation of St. Louis had already been raised in a compromised faith. That does not necessarily mean that they could not recover the sacred tradition. But that would ultimately mean accepting the Ordinariate. And there’s a reluctance to give up an independent identity and freedom to chart their own course. That implies a basic Protestantism in the AC church. even if it is a Protestantism whose heresy is to choose Catholicism.
Then there’s the question of fruit. There are fine people in my AC church, and I haven’t the right to question the faith of any of them. But institutionally, collectively, there’s a slumbering contentment. They are, by the grace of God, English (even when they aren’t), and they have their fine music and liturgy (unlike – sniff!- the Papists who sold their birthright for a pot of message and a mistranslation of the liturgy), and their gin and tonics. And they’re only ever challenged to excel in terms of evangelism (tell somebody — you know, the right people — about our church). I hear that some AC churches are growing. I haven’t seen it. The proportion of elderly and/or gay members doesn’t help.
But in Rome, there is excitement: a call to Christian unity; the reform of the liturgy, including a better translation and better music; the thrill of battle, of being everyone’s favorite target, more truly hated even than Westboro Baptist. There are young people whose faith rocks. There’s a network of Catholic broadcast media. It seriously feels to me like getting in on the ground floor of the Next Big Thing. Is the Church of Rome totally screwed up? Of course it is; it’s run by sinners. But in spite of that, it’s moving forward. I wish I could say the same of the Anglican Tradition.